Editor’s Note: The following is a press release from George M. Sutton RV describing the devastation following a fire last August – determined to be an act of arson – that destroyed the Oregon dealership, and the owners’ determination to regroup and rebuild.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 14, 2012, George M. Sutton III and his wife and business partner Martha Sutton watched helplessly as the administrative offices of their Eugene, Ore., RV dealership burned to the ground. The building was completely leveled, and few items could be salvaged. After 18 years in business, the Suttons were devastated by the loss.
Ever the optimists, and no strangers to “pulling themselves up by the bootstraps,” the Suttons are back in business and holding a grand reopening of the new facility on May 3-5. Hours are Friday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4p.m.
The Suttons awoke the morning of August 14th to find out that their business was on fire. Upon reaching the scene, they witnessed five fire trucks battling the flames of what had been their offices. The 2,600-square-foot recently renovated building was approximately 80 years old and housed the finance department, three sales offices, Martha’s kitchen (she makes lunch every Saturday), and the Sutton’s office. Included inside were several Native American relics and other treasures the Suttons collected from their travels all across the country. Also lost was a special Airstream RV display case and a large buffalo head. A few items were salvaged, but the Suttons were heartbroken to watch it all go up in smoke. Fortunately, according to Martha Sutton, the Suttons were able to retain their entire staff during the renovation. “We are very blessed. No one was hurt, we’re still here, and we’re still in business,” said Martha Sutton.
Forensic experts determined the Suttons were the victims of arson. No leads have been identified by authorities. George Sutton, however, was not worried. “My family has a long history of bouncing back and thriving in the face of adversity,” he said. “My grandfather, the first George Murphy Sutton, started a Ford dealership back in the 20’s. He ran his business – right through the Depression – until he died in 1948, leaving the dealership to my dad and me. In 1995, we started George M. Sutton RV, and we’ve been here ever since. Business could not be better, in spite of the recent recession.”
That’s why the Suttons are putting this chapter behind them and moving forward to celebrate the rebirth of the dealership and the new, state-of-the-art facility. “We see it as a new beginning,” said Martha Sutton. After months of waiting for permits, demolition began in January and construction has steadily continued since. The Suttons decided to consolidate all administration personnel in the new building. Fort Sutton, the iconic main building flanked by two Indian statues, is also going through remodeling and will house all sales staff and the finance department.
The grand reopening event is free and open to the public, and there is no charge for parking. Since the fire, the dealership has become a member of the Route 66 RV Dealer Network, and free Route 66 customer care packages will also be given away free.
For more information visit www.suttonrv.com.
Airstream Inc. has released its list of “Top Ten” dealerships for 2010-2011 and has named George M. Sutton RV “Number Two” behind East Coast outlet, Colonial Airstream, Lakewood, N.J.
Located in Eugene, Oregon’s third-largest city, Sutton RV has sold nearly 100 new and used Airstream products this past year. Coupled with its sales excellence, George M. Sutton RV is Airstream’s West Coast leader in service, parts, and both warranty and body repairs, according to a news release.
Founded in 1996, Sutton RV is a family-owned business, a tradition in the Sutton family since 1921. Both George’s father and grandfather owned and operated George M. Sutton Ford, Inglewood, Calif., for 37 years. The Sutton family was featured in Life Magazine as an example of American Life in December 1956.
In addition to Airstream’s tribute, George M. Sutton was elected president of the Oregon RV Dealers Association (ORVDA) at their Spring Meeting last week in Salem. An association of dealers, suppliers, lenders and associates who are dedicated to promoting the welfare of the RVing public, ORVDA is also focused on legislative issues that affect their ability to do business.
“For example,” explains Sutton, “the laws that define an RV versus a manufactured home are convoluted. Currently, when an RV is larger than 400 square feet, the law says it’s a manufactured home and can’t be sold as an RV in Oregon. That means toy haulers or large fifth-wheels with multiple slideouts have to be purchased out of state. ORVDA is working to clear up that boondoggle as well as other issues that infringe on our ability to do business.”
While Sutton RV is located in a relatively rural area of the country, their customers are far-flung.
“We routinely sell RV products coast to coast,” Sutton says, “and we’ve shipped to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hawaii and Alaska, among other places. We have even been contacted to ship RVs to Japan, following the earthquake and the shortage of housing.”
Sutton’s daughter, Marcy Sutton, designed their highly successful website, www.suttonrv.com, which serves as the gateway for consumers to contact Sutton RV from all corners of the globe.
Airstream, the iconic aerodynamic trailer that was first manufactured more than 80 years ago, is headquartered in Jackson Center, Ohio. George M. Sutton and wife Martha have been invited to participate in the company’s upcoming May Dealer Council meetings. The Suttons have been instrumental in suggesting product improvements, floor plans and continual consumer feedback, which is vital to Airstream’s success.
For more information, contact George M. Sutton RV at (800) 256-9832.